I know it may come as a shock to some of you that a jerk like me actually cares about the environment, but I do. Think of it this way – caring about the planet is just another way to be disgusted with other people, which is one of my favorite things to do.
I am generally pretty lazy, and easily grossed out, so you’re not going to come to my house and find a compost pail. And, I am a city slicker so you will also not find a garden in my non-existent back yard (although you will find dog-sized rats and a gaggle of filthy-faced, totally unsupervised children playing with rocks).
What you will find, however, are some super simple ways I’ve found to cut back on the amount of stuff I throw away, the chemicals I was dump down my drain and the junk I put into my body. So I thought I’d share what I found, and encourage you guys to share your simple eco-kitchen tips. Mine are baking-centric, but feel free to take your comments all over the kitchen.
Ok first things first, you need to buy stuff to cook stuff. Most of my vegan friends will tell you that a meat-free, dairy-free diet (and baking grocery arsenal) is about as eco-friendly as it gets. Raising animals for food has a significant carbon footprint, there’s no denying it – so if you’re up for it, opting to not use animal products in your baking is a step in the right direction. Regardless of what you’re baking with it’s always a good idea to buy local and organic when ever you can. It is pricier in a lot of cases, so no one’s judging you if you can’t always do it, but organic foods are grown without chemicals, which is good for your guts and good for the planet. Oh, and while you’re shopping for those chemical-free odds and ends, don’t forget your reusable produce bags. Why bother trying to save the Earth if you’re stuffing your organic apples into a bunch of disposable produce bags?
Keeping a clean kitchen while you bake is kind of obvious, but doing it without going through a bunch of paper towels can be tricky. I’ve cut back on my paper towel usage a lot recently by keeping some Skoy cloths on hand. The 4-color pack is ideal for the kitchen because you can designate different colors for different jobs to prevent cross-contamination. They’re machine washable, dishwasher safe, and they dry really quickly so they don’t get germy or stinky. If you want to zap bacteria just microwave it for a few seconds and once you’ve worn one out, it’s completely biodegradable. Obviously you can’t use these in the same way in a commercial kitchen due to health code regulations, but recycled paper towels are a good second choice.
I’ve posted in the past about the basic stuff all bakers should have so I’m not going to re-cover all of that, but I will update that info with some reusable and eco-friendly options you might want to look into. Cupcake papers are a must, and if you’ve been reading my blog at all you know that I am horribly addicted to expensive, colorful ones. Listen, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke and I don’t eat meat – if the one shitty thing I ever do is buy beautiful cupcake papers I think I’m still on the right track. In my defense, paper cupcake wrappers are technically recyclable and in many cases, they are biodegradable. However, you can buy unbleached baking cups that are a bit better than the bleached and dyed versions I love so much. If you’re just baking at home and not really giving your cupcakes away, you could go with reusable silicone baking cups. I know they’re a good idea, but they always come in horrible colors and I tend to gift my cupcakes so they don’t quite work for me.
Enough about cups – let’s talk about batter and frosting. I admit to being a former disposable pastry bag user. They just seemed easier to deal with – but actually, I was being lazy. Get yourself a few piping bags. Now the worst part about using reusable piping bags is trying to dry them. Oh! But wait, here’s an ingenious idea that I’ve shared with more than one of you in the past – a bag and bottle dryer. You can use this handy guy to dry your reusable bottles, reusable snack & sandwich bags and also to dry your pastry bags!
Wooden spoons and mixing bowls, luckily, have not yet become disposable. But there are a few options out there for those of you who are looking to make your baking more sustainable. On the mixing bowl tip, there are these brightly-colored Preserve nested mixing bowls. Preserve products are made with 100% recycled (and recyclable) #5 plastic – which is non-leaching and BPA-free. Here’s the thing about recycling – it only works when you actually BUY things made from recycled materials. So things like this are a really smart way to help contribute to that sustainable cycle. I recently replaced my splintered old wooden spoons (and other utensils) with bamboo. Bamboo is an organic, fast-growing grass that actually generates more oxygen than trees. Plus, it naturally contains an anti-bacterial agent so you don’t have to use harsh chemicals when you’re cleaning it.
Probably one of the biggest waste-savers I’ve added to my kitchen is a silicone baking mat. It’s neither fun nor sexy, but it’s pretty much eliminated the need for parchment paper in my baking. Plus, I can just wipe off the mat instead of washing my whole cookie sheet so I use less water and soap.
This stuff is just the tip of the iceberg, you guys, but I’ve made a noticeable dent in how much crap I throw away and saved enough money on disposables to make buying this stuff well-worth it!
What do you do to make your kitchen more eco-friendly?